The following is a draft article for the Educational Journal of Living Theories (EJOLTS).
How can I live my life as a living-global-citizen?
From action research to political activism.'
Abstract This paper narrates my post doctoral journey as a participative action researcher as I seek to continue to live out my values as a global citizen without the support of an academic environment. On leaving my role as a full time educator in a UK state school, the challenge for me was to continue being a participative action researcher whilst engaging with real world politics. My desire to continue to live out my values as a living-global-citizen led me to move from action research into political activism. The vote to leave the EU in June 2016 was the catalyst for me to become more active in politics. My belief in democracy was shaken and it led me to consider how I could enhance the democratic process through forms of deliberative democracy. This was the motivation for my involvement in the development of a Democracy Cafe and a Citizen's Assembly in my home town of Salisbury, UK. Both of these activities are examples of how I am living out my values as a living-global-citizen and a democrat in order to enhance my own learning, the learning of others and to influence the social formations in which we are operating.
1. Introduction As a living theory action researcher I seek to live out my values more fully in my life. In our book we distinguish between Living Global Citizenship as a theoretical idea and the unique personal act of meaning that an individual is seeking to live as fully as possible in living-global-citizenship (Coombs, Potts and Whitehead, 2014). This paper is about the unique personal act of meaning that I, as a living-global-citizen, am seeking to live out as I narrate my journey from action researcher operating in an academic environment to political activist operating in the real world of politics. A key aspect of Living Global Citizenship is Cultural Empathy. Indeed, Cultural Empathy is what enables Living Citizenship to become Living Global Citizenship. "The ability of an emerging global citizen to appreciate other cultures and societies and move towards a common shared set of values and understanding is a valuable goal. This global appreciation of other cultures, traditions and values is something we argue as "cultural empathy". Cultural Empathy is both a social policy and an act of humanity, and when combined with our notion of living-citizenship, it helps us to define what we mean by living-global-citizenship. " (Coombs, Potts and Whitehead, 2014, P8.) Cultural empathy helps us to celebrate and appreciate the richness of cultural difference (Andreotti, 2011). The result of the European Union referendum in the UK in June 2016 came as a shock to many. Some of the campaign messages were culturally disempathetic in the sense that they lacked appreciation of other cultures and sought to exploit divisions in society.
Figure 1 - The Visual Propaganda of the BREXIT Leave Campaign
Such cultural disempathy contradicted my own values and motivated me to respond in ways that might help to restore the social value of cultural empathy. The referendum process was very adversarial and the result left the UK a very divided nation. Direct democracy had worked in the form of a referendum to produce a result which clashed with my values. This shook my belief in democratic forms of government and led to a transformation in my learning about democracy as I sought a means to restore some of the cultural empathy that had been lost. A report by the organisation Compass summed up the change that I was seeking: "Much of the change we need to see is about culture and behaviour. We need a daily practice of kindness and consideration, listening to each other and making time for each other, respecting differences and learning from them. The Brexit vote exposed how polarised we are: it is a wake-up call to heal differences, not entrench them." (Compass 2018 P.78) Through Compass I discovered deliberative democracy. Thus, I became a political activist seeking to influence others in seeing the benefits of deliberative forms of democracy and seeking to influence social formations through the establishment of, and participation in, deliberative democratic processes. My narrative begins with an outline of my role as a citizenship educator and the emergence of Living Global Citizenship as both a theoretical concept and a unique personal act of meaning. This is important in providing a framework for understanding my own actions as I first explore deliberative democracy and then provide evidence of how my involvement in the establishment of two forms of it, a Democracy Cafe and a Citizen's Assembly. are influencing my own learning, the learning of others and the social formations in which we operate.
We (Coombs, Potts and Whitehead, 2014) came to coin the phrase Living Global Citizenship as a result of transformations in our thinking over a number of years as we discussed the nature of citizenship and learning from international educational partnerships. My interest in citizenship education had been sparked by Bernard Crick's (1998) report which led to the introduction of citizenship education to the UK curriculum "designed to enhance the political literacy of all young people and counter rising levels of democratic apathy" (Weinberg and Flinders, 2018). As Deputy Head in a comprehensive school in one of the most deprived communities in Wiltshire, I had worked with others to establish a partnership between my own school and Nqabakazulu School, in the black township of Kwamashu, Durban, South Africa. This partnership was based on shared values of social justice, equality, democracy and ubuntu, an African value that roughly translates as togetherness. In my PhD (Potts, 2012) I had used a living educational theory approach to study the transformation in my own learning as a result of the partnership, the learning of others involved in the partnership and the influence that we had had on social formations. Our intention in establishing the partnership had always been to deliver citizenship education which fitted in the justice-orientated category of active citizen, as outlined in the typology below:
Table 1: A Typology of Active Citizenship
This typology helps me to understand why I felt the need to continue my citizenship activities after my PhD and joint authoring of the book. I wanted to be an active member of community groups but I also wanted to go beyond this and have a role in effecting systemic change. Two political events in particular motivated me to further critically assess the predominant social, political and economic structures. In the UK, the vote to Leave the European Union and in the US, the election of Donald Trump as President seemed to go counter to the values and attitudes essential for contemporary democratic societies, such as respect for others, self-reflection, aiming for the common good, active participation as a citizen, and international understanding. It led me to question the prevailing democratic process and consider how democracy could be strengthened. Through a series of meetings with like minded local people I became interested in deliberative democracy.
3. Deliberative Democracy Many commentators argue that there is much wrong with the prevailing forms of democratic governance. Confidence in political leadership is falling, groups are feeling marginalised and excluded from the political process and individuals are making judgements in isolation. "Democratic governance is eroding at the same time as public confidence in political leadership declines on an unprecedented scale. Media outlets across the globe predict, on a daily basis, the demise of democracy, and ask what will happen if it does not survive in countries that are traditionally considered to be democracies. Strengthening democracy means working on ways to be more inclusive, ensuring people and their interests are at the heart of political dialogue and decision-making processes." (Chungong 2017)
Smith and Wales (2000) argue that the principal-agent form of representation, which is dominant within liberal democracies, rests on the fact that the political representative is able to deliberate and decide for others. But, the lack of presence or ‘voice’ of the politically marginalised, such as women and ethnic minorities, in political decision making processes means that their interests and perspectives are systematically excluded or at least not adequately addressed.
In addition, Warren (1996) argues that democracy works poorly when individuals hold preferences and make judgements in isolation from one another, as they often do in today’s liberal democracies. When individuals lack the opportunities, incentives, and necessities to test, articulate, defend, and ultimately act on their judgements, they will also be lacking in empathy for others, poor in information, and unlikely to have the critical skills necessary to articulate, defend, and revise their views.
Deliberative democracy offers a way of restoring confidence in democratic institutions, ensuring all voices are heard and opportunities for participants to make judgements based on collective wisdom. It promises more inclusive and legitimate forms of political authority, more informed decisions and a more active account of citizenship. It is based on the principle that all citizens are entitled to participate in the process of political dialogue and have an equal right to introduce and question claims, to put forward reasons, to express and challenge needs, values and interests. Deliberative democracy promotes political dialogue aimed at mutual understanding. Participants don't necessarily agree but they are committed to resolving problems through discussion and deliberation. It encompasses a talk-based approach to political conflict and problem solving through arguing, demonstrating, expressing, and persuading. In a good deliberative system, persuasion that raises relevant considerations should replace suppression, oppression, and thoughtless neglect.(Mansbridge et al., 2012)
"What is fundamental to democratic dialogue is ‘deliberative’ as opposed to ‘strategic’ or ‘instrumental’ rationality. In contrast to the strategic manipulation and manoeuvring that is often characteristic of contemporary politics, we can describe a collective as deliberatively rational ‘to the extent that its interactions are egalitarian, uncoerced, competent, and free from delusion, deception, power and strategy. Democratic deliberation encourages mutual recognition and respect and is orientated toward the public negotiation of the common good." (Smith and Wales, 2000, Pp5-6)
Democratic deliberation can not only lead to more legitimate and trustworthy forms of political authority, but it also promises more informed judgements. It offers the conditions whereby participants can widen their own limited and fallible perspectives by drawing on each other’s knowledge, experience and capabilities. Fearon (1998)argues that this increases the odds of good judgements emerging for two reasons: it might be ‘additively’ valuable in the sense that one actor is able to offer an analysis or solutions that had not occurred to others; or it might be ‘multiplicatively’ valuable in that deliberation could lead to solutions that would not have occurred to the participants individually.
Deliberative democracy also offers a more active version of citizenship, a more justice orientated citizen (see table 1), one that seeks out and addresses areas of injustice and knows how to effect systemic change by recognising that political engagement has the potential to transform the values and preferences of citizens in response to encounters with others. Through participation and deliberation citizens viewpoints can be widened beyond the limited outlook of their private affairs. Critics of deliberative democracy argue that citizens are unwilling to participate in political life. One of the most common reasons given by disengaged citizens for their unwillingness to engage in political life is the fact that the world of politics is separated from their own lives, and that political debates are removed from their own lived experience. Citizens claim to be alienated from the formal business of politics, and from the forms of dialogue which characterise and perpetuate it (e.g. Hansard Society & Electoral Commission, 2012; Baston & Ritchie, 2004; Parvin & McHugh, 2005). Furthermore, social capitalists argue that increased inequality, deprivation and social fragmentation has resulted in a weakening of common bonds of citizenship, and an erosion of the kind of civil society that deliberative democracy relies on. The proposed causes for the decline in social capital, and civic and associational life, in the literature include the globalization of markets, the rise of a more fluid workforce, the decline of traditional manufacturing industries and the rise of the knowledge economy, the privatisation of leisure, the rise of social and economic inequality, increased individualism, and the expansion of economic markets. These and numerous other factors have combined to destroy those opportunities for face to face contact that citizens once had with their neighbours, bosses, friends, extended families, and so on, leaving them isolated and alienated from one another. (Verba et al, 2003). If deliberative democracy requires a vibrant civil society, it must be created, or rather, recreated in the wake of these changes. Stocks of social capital have eroded and must be re-built; deprived neighbourhoods lacking a civic and political infrastructure must be reformed; demographic inequalities must be reduced; people who consider themselves divided or cut off from one another must be brought together. A social, political, and cultural shift must take place. (Parvin, 2015) Deliberative democrats respond to these criticisms by arguing that reconfiguring democracy as a process of public reasoning among citizens can re-connect citizens with one another and with politics, so that political discussion becomes part of their lived experience. This , I believe, has been demonstrated in the Democracy Cafes as evidenced later in this paper. The social, political and cultural shift that Parvin seeks can be made and social capital restored through increasing the opportunities available to citizens to influence political decisions and emphasising the need for collective deliberation among citizens on matters of policy and principle. This approach can ensure social unity and political stability in circumstances of diversity, produce democratically legitimate outcomes in the face of disagreement, and offer a response to democratic decline by reconnecting citizens with institutions and the regime of laws under which they live, and with one another (Benhabib, 1996; Mansbridge and Parkinson).
Further, Cross (2019) suggests that there is a tension between deliberation and activism. Critics of deliberative methods fear that if activists were to rely exclusively on deliberation, certain substantive injustices might only be exacerbated. However, as Cross points out, if common features of activist conduct like rhetoric, heckling, partisan campaigning, and protest may generate greater public attention for neglected viewpoints, then these methods may have a welcome place within a deliberative system. This may go a considerable way towards resolving the tension between deliberative democracy and activism.
One of the key themes of the Brexit debate was "taking back control". My encounters with deliberative democracy have led me to believe that it is a way of reconfiguring democracy with citizens taking control. As the Compass report (2018) in to the causes and cures of Brexit points out: "Democracy has to become an everyday part of our lives, at work, in trade unions and civil society. Taking back control in a meaningful way means taking back responsibility too – individually and collectively." (p78) Democracy cafes and citizens' assemblies are examples of how control over decision making can become more democratic. In the next two sections of this paper I want to explore how my lived experience of these two forms of deliberative democracy fits with my avowed intention to be a living-global-citizen.
4. Democracy Cafes A friend introduced me to the idea of a Democracy Cafe as a form of face to face deliberative discussion and as someone who is interested in developing people as citizens and extending participation in discussion about issues, I was immediately interested. We decided to try the idea out in September 2017 and we were quite prepared for the first one to be attended by just three or four interested people. I volunteered to be the facilitator for the first Democracy Cafe to take place in my home town of Salisbury in the UK. At this first meeting, participants suggested ten different topics for discussion. In a democratic way, we then voted on each topic and the one that got the most votes was then the topic to be discussed. The chosen topic was "Democracy, is it a good thing?". There were 25 people in attendance, a number far in excess of expectations. Eighteen months later the number of participants remains a similar number, however the faces change each month. The idea of a Democracy Cafe comes from Christopher Phillips' Socrates Cafe, which is based on sharing ideas and ideals and enquiring into issues and problems through collective dialogue. "Inclusive participatory societies thrive on face to face give-and-takes — on ‘democratizing’ — in which everyone matters and counts and has a genuine chance of being heeded and heard, in which equal consideration is given to a bracing variety of perspectives, and in which every interlocutor has a chance to reveal her unique story, expertise and stores of wisdom." (Phillips, 2019) The purpose is to allow participants to present views which are heard respectfully whilst being challenged, leading to a thorough discussion of the issues. Participants are asked to suspend judgements so as to encourage dialogue. The idea is to bring in to the open impulses, feelings and opinions on these matters so that they can be seen and reflected back by others in the group. The discussion does not necessarily reach a conclusion and usually raises more questions than answers. The role of the facilitator is to ensure the ground rules are followed and to encourage contributions from participants .
Media:Democracy Café - Ground Rules.jpeg Figure 2 - Democracy Cafe Ground Rules
We have also held them in local schools and Democracy cafes have now started up in Oxford and Southampton following the success of the Salisbury cafe. In living my life as a living global citizen I seek to encourage citizens to be more active and engaged democratically in civic life. I seek to promote cultural empathy with participants appreciating different perspectives on issues. So what is the evidence that Democracy Cafes are enabling citizens to be more engaged and appreciative of other perspectives. Video link to Salisbury Democracy Cafe Feedback from Democracy Cafe run at Grammar Schools - 20 October 2017 "The Democracy Café sessions went particularly well, both from talking to students who attended, and also via Martin from our committee who worked with you. He enjoyed your sessions so much that he stayed for the third (normally we say committee members can go see a different workshop in the last session if they like), and said that each session was different, both in subject matter and dynamics. He thought the inclusive way topics for discussion were chosen worked very well, and that students felt really encouraged to get involved. " Alastair Endersby - Assistant Head of Sixth Form - South Wilts Grammar School
5. Citizen's Assembly Salisbury Democracy Alliance is seeking to build support amongst local community groups in Salisbury for the idea of Citizens Assemblies to be run to make decisions on local issues. The Alliance encouraged Wiltshire Council to bid to be part of the Government's funded scheme to run Assemblies in ten local authorities nationally facilitated by independent experts. This would have established Wiltshire as a vanguard local authority in this respect and we would have suggested that the Assembly be run in Salisbury as part of the revival plan following the Novichok incident in 2018 that affected the city so badly. However, Wiltshire Council did not bid to be part of the pilot scheme which meant that the Democracy Alliance are having to organise the Assembly themselves. Our work to establish a Citizen's assembly in our home city is based on our assessment that there is a democratic deficit and through such an assembly this deficit can be addressed. The participants in the assembly will become more informed on the issues considered and be able to critically assess social, political and economic structures and see beyond surface causes. They will be given the opportunity to question, debate and recommend changes to established systems and structures that reproduce patterns of injustice over time. This will enable them to make recommendations to address areas of injustice and effect systemic change. The citizens’ assembly concept was developed to provide a means for a randomly selected group of around 20 people to come together over a period of several days to tackle a specifically defined problem. Although randomly selected, work is done to ensure that the participants are from a cross section of the community and are as representative of the community in terms of ethnicity, age, gender and income as possible. Individuals with relevant expertise may also be invited to attend and advise. There will also be a professional facilitator. Citizens’ assemblies have been used in a variety of situations and in a range of countries including Ireland, Australia, USA as well as the UK. The local group has been fortunate in securing the support of Prof. Graham Smith of Westminster University an authority in this area. Professor Graham Smith is Co-investigator of the Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit project and Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster. He is an expert on participatory democratic institutions that aim to increase and deepen citizen engagement in political decision making. He is author of Democratic Innovations (Cambridge University Press) and was a co-investigator for the Democracy Matters pilot citizens’ assemblies in 2015. There has been some central government interest in deliberative democracy and the Dept. for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced a strategy in August 2018 to encourage this approach. The idea of a Citizens' Assembly as a way of finding a solution to BREXIT is gaining some traction in the media (Sodha, S., 2019) and with some parliamentarians (Creasey, S., 2019) Conclusions Problems with Deliberative Democracy Can it be scaled up Self selection
6. Conclusions A deliberative democratic model focused on democracy cafes and citizens' assemblies is in many ways a rejection of the idea of deliberation by the citizenry at large. It is something that small groups of hand-picked citizens do in order to help state officials make the right decisions in key areas of public policy. It does not envisage or require any significant change in the behaviour of citizens, in their perception of themselves or others, or in their engagement with politics. It merely seeks to harness the benefits of small-group deliberation in the policy-making process. Whilst feasible it avoids what many see as the aim of deliberative democracy, the need for appropriate and widespread participation in democratic life. (Parvin, 2015)
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